The first move towards an organisation for aviation artists in Britain came with the formation of the Society of Aviation Artists, with headquarters in Albemarle Street in central London, its membership consisting of purely professional artists. The President was Norman Wilkinson, with Frank Wootton as his vice-president, the Society holding its first exhibition at the Guildhall in 1954.
Four years later, another body started up at the Kronfeld Club, also in London, as the Kronfeld Aviation Art Society, the Club itself being a social centre for gliding and light aviation enthusiasts. Its first exhibition took place in the cellar-based Club in 1958; the standard was high and its non-professional spirit upheld by a rule stating that frames were optional - though that one was short-lived.
It flourished while the Kronfeld Club flourished, and it was then replaced by a more professional organisation, the present Guild of Aviation Artists, which held its first exhibition at the Royal Aeronautical Society in 1971. Its founding President was the late Frank Wootton and during his long tenure the Guild benefited greatly from his professional standing and his inexhaustible assistance to members. He was succeeded by the current President and first Fellow of the Guild, Michael Turner, himself a member of the Kronfeld Society in its day. The Guild was also fortunate to have attracted many of the members of the original Society of Aviation Artists, which had succumbed to economic forces, and which included Roy Cross, Terence Cuneo, the late Kenneth McDonough, Roy Nockolds, Keith Shackleton and David Shepherd - and of course, Frank Wootton.
The transition from the Kronfeld days to the much more serious body that was the new Guild was also enormously helped by the presence of the founder administrators of the former, in particular of Yvonne Bonham, founder secretary, who continued in that post at the Guild for many years and Hugo Trotter, who is still available as a consultant.
From these early beginnings the Guild steadily evolved and matured into the present organisation numbering some 500 members. Furthermore, worldwide affiliations with fellow societies including the USA, France, Holland, Canada, Australia, Italy and Brazil, the visible level of enthusiasm and growth in public interest in its activities has prompted an increasing demand for exhibitions, demonstrations and exchange visits by its members.
In 2002 the Annual Aviation Paintings of the Year Exhibition moved from its previous home at the Carisbrooke Gallery to the prestigious Mall Galleries close to Admiralty Arch in London, where the consequent increase in hanging space allowed for some 375 works to be displayed.
The formation of regional groups in recent years has provided the Guild membership with excellent opportunities to get together at frequent intervals for painting and sketching days at airfields and museums in an atmosphere of friendship and helpfulness. In combination with talks, visits, workshops and newsletters advice and encouragement is always available to those who wish to graduate through the status of Friend to Associate and ultimately to the designation of Full Member.
Entry membership as a Friend is available to all age groups interested in aviation and/or art. This includes non-artists who simply enjoy the convivial atmosphere and proximity to aircraft frequently available in privileged situations.
Looking to the future, it is the aim of the Guild to build on these achievements and continue in its endeavours to present and promote some of the very finest aviation art in the world.